SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When the NBA All-Star Game returns to Salt Lake City for the first time in three decades, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith anticipates the event will help build Utah into a destination for other major sporting events.
“All the lights will be on us, but I think it is one more compelling event in a series we need to have, we should have, and we’re going to have,” Smith said Monday at a news conference.
Hosting the 72nd NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 19 is expected to drive significant economic impact for Salt Lake City over the five-day period. Hotel rooms throughout the city and Salt Lake County are sold out for the weekend.
Infrastructure expansion aided the Jazz in bringing back the coveted game, which they last hosted in 1993. Multiple hotels have opened up near Vivint Arena within the last five years. There’s been downtown Salt Lake City development projects and an expansion of the Salt Lake City International Airport.
“I always look at the growth of a city by the amount of cranes in the air. We’ve got a lot of them in Salt Lake City and that’s a good thing,” Smith said.
Utah has hosted other major sporting events, including the 2002 Winter Olympics. With the state gearing up for another bid for the 2030 or 2034 Olympics, Smith sees the NBA All-Star weekend as a perfect opportunity to showcase what Utah has to offer.
“This is a really important moment for our state to shine,” Smith said. “It’s been 30 years.”
All-Star weekend will include a men’s college basketball game between Grambling State and Southern — dubbed the NBA HBCU Classic on Feb. 18 at the Huntsman Center. A concert will feature Pitbull at the Salt Palace Convention Center that night.
The Salt Palace will offer 14 basketball courts where fans can shoot and play.
Smith said he worked to bring in numerous events and pop-up shops to give fans who may be priced out of attending the game a chance for involvement in the weekend’s festivities.
“If people want to go, there’s something for everyone,” Smith said.
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